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|Address:||58-59 Poland Street, London W1F 7NR|
|Tel:||020 7993 3251|
|Price: £52.00||Wine: £24.00||Champagne: £70.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm 5.30pm-10.30pm|
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Social Eating House made me feel very old. I know that I am old; my age starts with a 4, depressingly enough, but it’s the first time a restaurant has ever made me feel like this – clubs definitely, bars sometimes, music occasionally, but not restaurants, at least not till now. It’s too cool for school, with the Soho setting, the staff in jeans, the music, the other customers – I’m going to just sit quietly in the corner and wait for death! Which is a shame, as apart from the overall ‘coolness’ it’s rather fine.
Let’s start with the atmosphere, since it’s a rather inescapable part of the experience. I still hate Soho and always have done, so it’s always a bit of an experience going anywhere where everyone is really thin, has angular hair and angular glasses and jobs in media or something creative. The vibe is part club, part bar, with really loud music and loud conversation – if you like shouting at the people you sit with you’ll fit in fine. Personally, I just wanted everything turned down a notch. And don’t expect, fitting in with that, you’ll get table clothes and fine cutlery etc, instead it’s a more basic experience than Mr Atherton’s other offerings – Pollen Street Social and Little Social – but somehow it just about works.
Service is a just a little bit off the fine dining experience as well. The waiters are all really friendly and happy to chat about the wine, what you’ll be eating etc., but there is just a slight element of disorganisation. Partly this might be down to the fact you don’t get a single person throughout, rather whoever is nearest, but also partly that the kitchen seemed to struggle with the volume of covers, in so far as gaps between courses were uneven etc. But, having said that, dining didn’t drag and it really helps when everyone is polite and friendly, you can forgive things being less than perfect. However, given the amazingly high standards in the rest of Jason Atherton’s offerings perhaps a small lesson to learn.
Food is again good, but just a couple of things stop me from saying that it’s great. I started with the mushrooms on toast – a single slice of toast in a silvery rack, spread with cep puree is carried to the table along with a pan with a plastic bag in which your fat, garlicky mushrooms have been steaming in butter and rosemary, the bag is snipped open with scissors and away you go for a stunningly tasty version of a classic. My main course was plaice with shrimps, cucumber, charlotte potato and mousseline sauce, lots of flavours, each clearly discernable, but it wasn’t much more than warm and also was rather small – I could have eaten at least 50% extra and not felt full, but the people I dined with all got decent sized main courses so perhaps this was my fault in having chosen slightly badly. Dessert was lemon curd pie with peppered pastry crust and sour yogurt sorbet – a ‘deconstructed’ pie without anything like a crust, but lovely inventive tastes with a wonderful sticky, sweet and biting lemon offset by clean sorbet.
Value for money is always subjective, particularly when you aren’t paying the bill, but 3 times 3 courses, wine, water, service and at least one other drink each came to £235, which didn’t seem unreasonable.
I’d go back, though next time probably not in a suit straight from work, maybe a lunchtime or even a weekend, when I could at least have time to recover from being with the cool kids.